Licence is latest fad we'll forget

16th April 2010 at 01:00

You wanted to see me, Charles?

Yes, Minister. It's this "licence to teach" thing. Seems to be some fuss about it.

Can't see why, Charles. Makes perfect sense. We have to ensure teachers are up to scratch. It's like the MOT, really. Seeing if they've gone rusty. I mean, if primary school teachers don't know that children should be sitting in rows and chanting tables we shouldn't have them in our schools ...

Ah, a little problem, then. Primary school teachers don't do that any more. It isn't what they call "good practice".

Of course, what am I thinking of? I mean, they should know that children are learning to read and write using the ITA.

The Initial Teaching Alphabet? Dear me, no, Minister. Ancient stuff. We mucked up children's writing with that initiative.

Did we? Best to keep it quiet, then. What I meant to say was, they should know that children sit in friendship groups round tables, choosing what to learn and researching cross-curricular topics.

Wrong again, Minister. We're not too keen on Plowden techniques any more. Children just copied chunks out of dinosaur books and couldn't read what they'd written.

Did they? Seemed a jolly good idea at the time. It's the "real books" approach these days, isn't it?

Reading by osmosis? Made a few careers for bandwagoners, but it didn't teach children to read. Don't you remember the complaints from parents? Potential voters, Minister!

Sorry, had a mental blank. It's all about the Integrated Day and Cascade Learning now, isn't it?

Wrong again, Sir. That's all frowned upon these days. Charlie chucking paint in one corner while Freda tries to concentrate on subtraction in another ...

Did I say Integrated Day? I meant the Literacy Hour. I'd expect teachers to be on the ball with that. All those little traffic lights on desks. Works wonders.

Ah, but it doesn't, Minister. The Literacy Hour was a failure. Shame really. Our packs even told the teachers what to say, to save them thinking for themselves. Cost us a bob or two, if you remember. All that transparent acetate shipped in from abroad.

Don't remind me, Charles. What I meant to say was phonics ...

A useful word, Sir. Phonics was in 50 years ago, then it went out, then in, then out, but it's in at the moment. More or less. What we call a Hokey Cokey initiative, phonics.

Absolutely, Charles. Still, if they all follow the Literacy Strategy ...

Not a good thing to follow if they want promotion, Minister. That's all old hat now. Didn't work, I'm afraid. Designed by people who hadn't spent much time in a classroom ...

What about the national curriculum, Charles? They can't go far wrong if they quote chunks of that?

Which one, though? Most were impossible to work. We forgot teachers only had 24 hours in a day. Presumably you're referring to the revised curriculum starting this year, the new six area approach?

You mean the Cambridge Primary Review? The one lots of clever people spent ages on? The one that teachers really liked?

No, you weren't too keen on that one so we ignored it.

So we did. Well, we must MOT them on something. What do you suggest?

Well, Minister, at the moment we've given them modern foreign languages, the ICT-managed learning environment, new data analysis techniques, citizenship, the new sex education arrangements, safeguarding procedures, Assessment for Learning, Assessing Pupils' Progress ... although by the time the licensing starts we'll have made a fresh set of demands on schools. That's the problem, you see?

Look, I've got a jolly good idea, Charles. Let's just bury the whole licensing thing before the election. After all, we've only spent a few million on it so far ...

Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London. Email:

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